I've always been fairly picky when it comes to the anime that I choose to watch. I have just had too many situations where I was uncomfortably surprised with an anime that I really didn't want to watch. This is particularly the case with anime that deals in horror elements, as I am a chickenshit coward when it comes to anything remotely scary, and Japanese anime can be very scary to me.
To avoid getting caught unaware, I often have to rely on the openings of the show in order to give me a good sense of the show's general nature and outlook. This has resulted in me oftentimes finding the openings of anime almost as entertaining as the show itself. Thus the reason for this particular countdown.
This will not be some exhaustive list of the greatest anime openings, but rather an opportunity for me to talk about some amazing anime openings and hopefully inspire you to check out some amazing anime if you haven't already.
- I can only include the openings of anime that I have seen at least more than 3 episodes of. While this will almost certainly limit the possible selections I will make, it will also ensure that I know whether or not the opening properly connects to the anime in question.
- Some anime have multiple opening sequences throughout their run, I will select only one per anime for the list.
- Decisions will be made relative to both the visuals and the music. While the music is certainly the larger portion of the review, I feel the analysis of both is vital for my inclusion on this list.
- This list is a generalized exploration of amazing openings, not a list of best to worst. It is also not comprehensive.
1. Tank! (Cowboy Bebop)
Let's start this countdown off fucking right by including what might easily constitute the single greatest anime intro of all time. The fact that it is also attached to what is easily ranked among the greatest anime of all time is, in my opinion, not a coincidence.
Cowboy Bebop was the quintessential 90s action-drama anime. The futuristic, yet timeless, story of a band of space bounty hunters surviving and struggling through not only the dangers of their occupations but the damages of their personal histories is deeply compelling and the opening sequence is, no small terms, so fucking cool in its ability to capture the sense of danger and eroticism that the series evokes.
Because if I can describe Cowboy Bebop with any one word, sexy might very well be that word. This show is sexy and it fucking knows it, and the intro rocks out with a jazzy number that is as iconic as it is perfect for the show its intros. "Tank" is not only a ton of fun to listen to on its own but the fast-paced, 70s action movie bars that have been parodied in everything (including Archer) really help Cowboy Bebop's intro stand above the rest.
2. Love Dramatic (Kaguya-sama: Love is War)
I believe that I have geeked out about this opening quite a few times in the past and there is a very good reason for that. I absolutely adore the magic of an amazing James Bond-style opening. They have almost become an art form independent of the famous British spy series unto themselves and if I ever make a countdown detailing my favorite parodies and homages to James Bond intros, then the first opening for Kaguya-sama: Love is War will absolutely make that list.
The music is banging, performed by Masayuki Suzuki, and I will rock out to it all on its own, but knowing that such an amazingly fast-paced and humorous parody of James Bond, capturing the sense of intrigue and war iconography that is so essential to the underlying motifs of the show really give Kaguya-sama: Love is War an immediately identifiable presence.
I learned of this show through its intro and I am so happy to have had an opportunity to watch it. The show's style is perfectly matched by the interplay of absurdity and seriousness that the intro evokes. While the show has a second season opener that is also amazing and worthy of a watch, I feel that this original still shines and immediately marks Kaguya-sama: Love is War as something truly unique.
3. Peace Sign (My Hero Academia)
There are tons of My Hero Academia openers, as they change for each and every single new arc of the show. And each and every single one perfectly matches the overall triumphant tone of the series while at the same time visually and instrumentally introducing us to the largest players of that openers respective arc and the highlights.
I could've put any of the openers here and I would've felt completely justified, but I feel like the second opener "Peace Sign" is the one that best balances out the overall focus of the show, highlighting the interplay of heroics and education, alongside an absolutely banging tune. "Peace Sign" plays throughout the Sports Festival arc, which for many people represents the point at which My Hero Academia truly took off, as the show is largely a criticism and tribute of the shonen genre as a whole and the Sports Festival perfectly encapsulates that feeling.
We are shown all of our main players of the arc, which lacks almost all of the villains, and visually show all of their personal struggles and who will be the arc antagonists. Todoroki Shouto represents the largest narrative threat for Midoriya Izuku in this arc and the two's battle not only is the highlight of the arc but also the intro as well.
Coupled with a wonderfully understated but perpetually pumping tune that wouldn't be out of a place in a workout track, and you really are left with a sense of competition and determination to overcome any odds.
Just as a school of superheroes ought to.
4. One in a Billion (Restaurant to Another World)
I've talked about this anime before and I will certainly never hesitate to sing its praises when given the chance. Restaurant to Another World is amazing and a treat to simply have on and bask in the good feelings and that starts from the moment you turn the series on.
I will never skip the opening of Restaurant to Another World as the intro is, just like the song title, "One in a Billion". The show is a soothing and good-spirited exploration of the power of food to connect and bind people together, the collective experience of a good meal and the intro exemplifies that fact.
The intro matches a sense of adventure that one would expect with a fantasy world isekai, but interplays that with the relaxation of a cooking anime, never forgetting what it truly is at its heart. The intro is warm and inviting, just like the doors which form and frame the overall narrative motif of the series.
We follow our main character, the demon girl Aletta, as she literally enters a new world of food, and the intro celebrates the ability for a good meal to unite people across space and time. It is a magnificent and transformative experience, much like a good meal, to watch this anime and the intro invites you in from the very first note.
5. Tomorrow (KONOSUBA: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World)
The isekai genre is, not to put it lightly at all, over-saturated as hell. The genre of sending some stupid loser into a magical world where they get superpowers and a harem of beautiful women is overplayed and in desperate need of parody and satirization.
Luckily for the equilibrium of the universe, we have KONOSUBA: God's Blessing on This Wonderful World!. The series manages to balance out the straight-played isekai formula with an absurdist comedy that underplays a more realistic and cynical tone that is just absolutely refreshing to watch, and this intro perfectly encapsulates that with a complete mini-adventure. Our band of adventurers is sent to hunt down a specific monster and the intro not only manages to show us all the wacky hijinks that our protagonists get involved in but also effectively summarizes the relationships and characterizations (specifically character flaws) of them all.
6. Jingo Jungle (Saga of Tanya the Evil)
When I reviewed Saga of Tanya the Evil, I spoke at length about the magnificence of Jingo Jungle so I don't feel like there is all that much more that I can really speak on this intro. It matches the overall manic and militaristic tone which overlays everything in the series.
As stated in my review, I believe that most viewers and critics missed the point of Saga of Tanya the Evil. Despite the title of the anime, the show is almost categorically anti-war, by pointing out the inherent madness of war when it is counterpointed by the cold logic that pervades Tanya's home Empire. By the standards of the war and what it drives soldiers on both sides to do, Tanya is no more evil than her compatriots and rivals, only more effective at her job. And it is in that principle that reveals the system itself and its grand puppeteer (Being X) to be evil, that could allow such banal evil to run rampant.
It is this philosophy that pervades the series throughout and both "Jingo Jungle" and the closing song "Los! Los! Los!" expresses the sheer madness of the entire war. It is a chilling piece that immediately draws you into an amazing anime and makes you both scared and pity the German murder loli.
7. Voracity (Overlord III)
So I mentioned in the Saga of Tanya the Evil section how the anime and intro express the inherent madness and villainy of the system itself, rather than the individuals? Well for the intro to the 3rd season of Overlord, the show drops any potential pretense and straight-up points out that the protagonists of the franchise are almost all horrible sociopathic monsters.
The song is sung from the perspective of Momonga's primary love interests, a succubus, and an elder vampire. So naturally, the song, called "Voracity" mentions the hunger and desires of these two but uses it to subtextually reference Momonga and the rest of the guild guardians' own ambitions and hunger for power.
Season 3 of Overlord is where the show shifts into a seriously dark and grim tone when compared to the previous seasons. Former friends are betrayed as the political positions of the world are turned completely on their head as Momonga's plan finally reaches some degree of fruition and we see those elements played out alongside the teases to horrors created and met during the Tomb raider arc that also happens in this season.
Anime often shows us amazing villain focused stories and Overlord has become a notorious well-known example, largely because of elements presented to us in this manic and maniacal opening.
8. Lupin Trois (Lupin the 3rd: Part 5)
8. Lupin Trois (Lupin the 3rd: Part 5)
I am actually tremendously pissed that I was never allowed to grow up watching Lupin the 3rd. For some reason, this show about a gentlemen thief and his gang of noble outlaws missed my radar completely. Much like Cowboy Bebop, Lupin the 3rd has long entered the annals of anime history, even if it is less spoken of as some other anime.
The series has existed periodically since 1978 and I could've earnestly placed any of the openings here and be content, but I felt like the opening to Part V, the most recent iteration, is likely the one that best captures the modern aesthetic of the series and what it may look like in the future as well. Part V focuses heavily on themes of social media and the influence of technology on our world and the opening portrays that with a beautifully designed visual aesthetic that introduces and characterizes all the major players while still maintaining the overall iconic feel that is so essential to an amazing Lupin the 3rd piece of media.
You can check out Lupin the 3rd in its many iterations on Crunchyroll and highly recommend it. I will likely review the series in the future, if for no other reason than to talk about it more.
If you don't think that I will take the opportunity to geek out about more anime intros in the future, you are insane. I know that these countdowns don't tend to be very wordy but in many cases, the things I talk about tend to speak for themselves. And I hope the anime intros are among those. This won't be the last time I mention these amazing pieces of media and I hope you will enjoy those when they come out as well.
For now, be ready for next week when I explore a politically poignant and fascinating piece of alternative history by Harry Turtledove, the king of alternate history. While not as well-known as some of his other works, next week's book review will hopefully touch on a work that I feel is criminally undervalued in its exploration of modern values when placed in a different era.
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